Cayucos woman pleads guilty in bicyclist's death

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comSeptember 10, 2013 

Jessica Whitney Goddard, 29, was arrested Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, on suspicion of felony vehicular manslaughter and felony driving under the influence causing injury or death. Original story »

In a rare move, a Cayucos woman charged with killing a bicyclist while driving intoxicated pleaded guilty during her arraignment in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Tuesday.

As a result, Jessica Whitney Goddard, 29, faces up to 14 years in prison when she is sentenced Oct. 8.

Goddard was driving to work around 11:30 a.m. Sept. 2, heading south on Highway 1, when her Hyundai hit two cyclists, both from Los Osos, who were traveling on the right shoulder of the road near the Main Street exit in Morro Bay.

Alan Stephens, 65, was killed in the collision. Bradley Cummins, 60, suffered major injuries.

An hour after the incident, Goddard had a blood alcohol level of 0.07, just under the legal limit of 0.08.

Typically, defendants enter not guilty pleas during their arraignment hearings, and their next court date is set. But Goddard entered guilty pleas to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony driving under the influence with a three-year enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury.

Her attorney, Guy Galambos, said Goddard feels “awful” about the accident.

“She’s in tears every time I see her,” he said. “And it’s not just about herself.”

Galambos said he couldn’t get into the strategy behind her plea at this time.

“Any time a person enters a plea, it’s their own decision,” he said.

At sentencing, judges are often more lenient on defendants who quickly take responsibility for their actions, but they don’t have to be.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran said it’s “extremely unusual” for a person faced with such severe crimes to plead guilty at an arraignment.

“It’s an early form of closure for the victim and the victims’ families,” he said. “At the same time, they obviously have a lot of grief and a mourning process.”

Goddard had allegedly visited friends in Southern California the night before the crash, when she drank vodka. The next morning — after taking a train back to San Luis Obispo County — the alcohol was still in her system when she began driving to work in San Luis Obispo.

Goddard had a prior DUI conviction from Ventura County in 2009.

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